• The fab food sold by Melbourne's SisterWorks helps women build skills and incomes. (SisterWorks)Source: SisterWorks
From vibrant reusable coffee cups to handmade biscuits and save-the-ocean recipes, these gifts make a difference.
Kylie Walker

3 Dec 2019 - 1:29 PM  UPDATED 5 Dec 2019 - 9:44 AM

Looking for a gift that’s does good in the giving AND the buying? Here are some ideas for gifts for food lovers that are doubling the good, by helping a cause or a person in need as well as giving joy to the recipient.

One for the coffee-lover in your life

This stunning ceramic coffee mug features a design by leading Central Desert artist Murdie Nampijinpa Morris. You can buy this, along with other homewares featuring Aboriginal designs, from Yaama Ganu Gallery, a not-for-profit gallery and café in Moree, New South Wales, owned and operated by the AES, Australia’s biggest Aboriginal employment agency. Yaama Ganu, which is also a member of the Indigenous Art Code, sells works from artists of the local Kamilaroi nation and Aboriginal-managed art centres from communities around Australia. “The licensing deals for items like teapots and mugs mean there are royalties paid for every item sold, not just a one-off fee, so it generates money that goes to sustaining important remote communities,” explains the gallery’s co-director, Toby Osmond. The gallery’s website features larger artworks, while their Instagram account is the best place to see various smaller items, from cups, mugs, teapots and salad servers to cushions and socks. And if you'd like to see more reusable coffee cups from the same range like this one, pop over to Alperstein Designs

Another stunning option for coffee lovers: the bamboo reusable coffee mugs featuring designs by Indigenous artists that are sold by Queensland’s Kullilla Art, an Aboriginal family business that also sells a wide variety of other gift ideas featuring Indigenous designs, from kitchenware to jewellery and even pet food bowls!   

Buy from the bush (or pay a visit)

“It’s truly life-changing,” says Lizzie Waters. The farm-based pickle maker is talking about Buy From The Bush, an initiative that is encouraging people in the city to help rural economies by buying from rural businesses and makers of many things – everything from beeswax wraps made in Tarcutta, NSW to sheepskin stubby/bottle holders made in Coonabarabran (and of course plenty of non-food things too, such as hand-crafted cricket bats, art, and stylish clothes, jewellery and toys from rural retailers).     

Waters, who lives with her husband and 20-month-old son on a sheep and cattle property at Mendooran in New South Wales, and also works at the local school alongside running her fledgeling business, the Dill Tickle, has felt the #buyfromthebush effect these past few weeks.   

“Prior to being shared on the Buy From The Bush campaign, I was sending around 18 jars a week out to my stockists. Since BFTB, I’m sending out around 80 jars per week and am struggling to keep up! I am so grateful to the support that I have received from all over Australia.”

Between bushfires and drought, there are many people and communities doing it tough in the bush. Buy buying some of your gifts from a rural business or artisan, you can make a real difference, not just to them, but to the communities around them, as biscuit maker Edwina Mill explains. The Inverell-based baker sells edible gift tags and personalised biscuits through her business Sprinkle and Bake.  

“Buy from the Bush has given my small rural-based business the exposure to now be shipping biscuits all around Australia. I've had hundreds of people get in touch to order my home-baked biscuits for their offices, birthday parties, weddings, baby showers... I feel that people appreciate a home-baked biscuit as it not only brings people together but they know that they've been made with love and not machines. I only use quality ingredients and buy them locally to ensure that the money goes back into our local economy. The local post office supplies me with all of my packaging and shipping needs, the coffee shops have been fabulous in keeping us in coffee and lunches.”

Bush founder Grace Brennan tells SBS that while Buy From The Bush hopes to encourage as many people as possible to source festive gifts from bush businesses facing drought conditions, the project also has a longer-term goal. “By introducing them [city consumers] to all the wonderful things on offer, we hope that in the future they will look outside their urban communities to source products, services and skills.” Another option? Take a break in the bush: “Wander out to the bush, stay a while and experience it. Perhaps have a meal, get your nails done or check out the local hardware store.” (Follow sister campaign @stayinthebush on Instagram for inspiration on where to stay in the bush.)

Another great source of items handmade in the bush is One Day Closer to Rain Rural Cottage Crafts (a Facebook group that showcases people in regional areas who are selling their crafty creations). 

Be good to bees

Pop one of these Australian-made ladybird and bee houses ($69.95) in your garden and help all the little insects that are so essential to a healthy ecosystem. "Bee hotels are a safe habitat for solitary bees, butterflies, ladybugs and other beneficial insects. They give them a safe place to stop off and take a break and refuel, plus they help increase the biodiversity in your garden," explains Lottie Dalziel of Banish, an online business that aims to help people reduce their waste. 

A green kitchen

Buying a gift for someone who’s looking to lighten their footprint on the planet? How about the #plasticfreefoodie eMagazine. This is the third edition of the mag, which features recipes where every ingredient is free from single-use plastic. Monies raised go to Plastic Oceans International, a non-profit working to raise awareness of, and encourage solutions to, the problem of plastic pollution.

We also love PlanetBox lunch kits - for kids or grownups! – cute-as stainless steel bento-style lunchboxes with themes from sharks and cats to robots and mermaids (from $124.95); The Little Veggie Patch Co’s Edible Flowers Seed Kit, $30 (there are zero food miles when you grow your own!); Emondo Kids’ koala, wombat and frill neck lizard- shaped bowls, $39-$53, ethically made using sustainable bamboo; and these 100% cotton Knitty Bits hand-crocheted dishcloths, $32.95 for a pack of three (when they reach the end of their life, they can be composted).

The gift of clean water

Around the world, an estimated 578 million people have no choice but to drink dirty water. WaterAid Australia is part of a global federation that works to give people access to clean water. Their festive fundraising gift ideas range from their $13 “Cement Your Affection This Christmas” option (cement is used for tap stands and other infrastructure to bring water to people in remote communities) or $40 “Wishing you a Wheely Good Christmas” voucher (a wheelbarrow helps with laying trenches so that “with safe water near home, mothers can get water for drinking, washing and cooking when they need it, without walking for hours each day”) through to larger gifts that will buy rain tanks. You can get a card representing the gift sent to you, or choose e-card or print at home options if you are doing some last-minute shopping.

Sisters are doing it for themselves

We featured SisterWorks in our round-up of good gifts last year and we’re featuring them again because we just love what they do. The Melbourne-based non-for-profit helps refugee and migrant women in Australia gain confidence, skills and income. Goods made by the women are sold through SisterWorks' shops and online. Shop for items such as jars of Syrian eggplant pickle or Iranian fig jam; reusable bread bags, lunch bags, beeswax wraps and – what a great idea! – reusable popcorn bags for taking snacks to the movies; shopping totes; body care products; and gift hampers.

A better life through bees, plants and animals

Ok, we admit it, this llama is not the most obvious food-related gift. But trust us here – we share it because a ) who couldn’t use a reason to smile, and this Bolivian boy and his furry friend is certainly making us smile; and b ) a llama not only helps families by carrying food, water and firewood and providing lanolin-free wool for clothing, but gives nutrient-rich milk, too. World Vision’s llama gift is $200. The international charity has plenty of other gifts that will help families eat and live better. Buying for a gardener? For $10, a “Fast-growing seeds” gift will help a family cultivate a vegetable harvest to eat and to sell, creating a sustainable income stream. A gift for someone who loves honey (or a beekeeper)? World Vision’s “Train a Beekeeper” gift ($30) contributes both training and equipment. Other gifts options include a fish farm kit, a dairy goat or cow; chickens and eggs; and clean drinking water.

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